Celebrating a life well lived


Tavares exemplified the ‘Boys & Girls Club way’

When Thelma Tavares passed away last week, the Boys & Girls Club family lost a member. Practically since its inception, the Club has been home to the Reno Jets boxing club, started by Thelma and her late-husband Ray, and operated by Thelma after his passing in 1999.

July 6, family, friends and dozens of the kids whose lives Thelma and Ray touched over the years gathered for her service, and a memorial at the Club’s Ninth Street location. The Tavares family coached thousands of young boxers and took in more than 160 foster children into their Reno home. Thelma was a larger than life character and a true Reno original.

View photos from Tuesday’s memorial here

Get your boat ready … Star-Spangled Sparks is here

It’s Fourth of July weekend, time to fire up the barbecue, get out in the sun and get your boat ready …

Star-Spangled Sparks, the Celebration City’s annual show of patriotism, takes place July 3-4 2010 at Sparks Marina with countless activities, including the Model Dairy Milk Carton Parade of Boats and Boat Races. A bunch of Club kids will be on hand for the events, and we will even have a couple staff boat entries (pictured). See you there!

Star-Spangled Sparks calendar of events:

Saturday, July 3

  • 4-8 p.m. Boat Registration “Model Dairy Milk Carton Boat Races” & Vendors Set-Up

Sunday, July 4

  • 6: a.m. FREE Tethered Hot Air Balloon Rides; Pancake Breakfast by Kiwanis Club of North Valleys, Reno – $3 (all you can eat)
  • 8 a.m. Fun/Run/Walk (pre-register @ 353-2385)
  • 9 a.m. Model Dairy Milk Carton Parade of Boats & Boat Races; Boat-Building Demo
  • 9 a.m. KOZZ–CUB COUNTRY-KDOT; ESPN-Fox Sports; Kids Radio Prize Air Booth
  • 10 a.m. Opening Ceremony; Military Helicopter; Entertainment
  • 11 a.m. Sparks’ Got Talent
  • 3 p.m. Event at the Marina Closes

To download a PDF brochure of event information, click here.

Golden gloves and the heart to match: Tavares’ impact will live on

The Northern Nevada boxing community lost its matriarch with the passing of Thelma Tavares on Tuesday. She was 87.

Tavares, widow to Ray Tavares, ran the Reno Jets youth boxing program for three decades and even coached following her husband’s 1999 death. Most of that time, Northern Nevada’s premier youth boxing organization was run out of the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows’ Ninth Street facility. The gym, dubbed the Tavares Gym in memory of Thelma’s husband, has seen a countless stream of kids over the years, learning the game of boxing in a town that has become known for its boxing tradition.

Mike Wurm, chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows, says Thelma inspired kids to work hard – and she led by example.

“Even as she became older and more frail, she was here daily, working with kids,” he said. “Her and Ray had a commitment to kids that you have to admire.”

To say that kids were a part of the Tavares’ life may be like saying Mike Tyson is a decent boxer – an understatement.

After they moved to Reno from the Oakland, Calif. area, they became foster parents. And they didn’t just foster a few kids. More than 160 kids lived, at least for a short while, under the roof the Tavares’ 1,100-square-foot northwest Reno home, including Bob Tavares, whom the couple adopted.

“It’s really amazing,” said Lisa Tavares, Bob’s wife. “Hundreds of kids have been affected by the Tavareses. It seems like everywhere that Thelma went, someone was coming up to her and saying ‘Do you remember me?’ They were usually boxing students or foster children.”

The Reno Jets club started modestly, also run out of the Tavares home – mostly the garage and backyard. Before they had proper facilities, kids could be seen shadow-boxing or throwing the medicine ball around, all under Ray and Thelma’s watchful eye.

The Jets quickly outgrew that space and after a couple other spaces moved into the Club, an association that has continued to present-day. Ray was the program’s head coach, mentoring notable fighters such as Bo Glover, Cedric Ferguson, Calvin Davis and Larry Ware, to name a few, while Thelma ran the business, set up matches and promoted fighters. For years she also registered all local fighters for USA Boxing.

Thelma was a larger-than-life character with a deceptive physical disposition in her later years. Because of the limited mobility that came with age, she would coach from her wheelchair, keeping kids in line with heavy dose of hard edge … and just enough soft.

“She was tough with the kids, but they always knew she was there for them,” said Leon Morehead, a Boys & Girls Club employe who also spent two decades alongside Ray and Thelma Tavares as an assistant coach. He credits Thelma with holding the program together in the wake of Ray’s passing.

“She was always there, always demanding respect,” Morehead said. “That’s a quality that is important in a boxing program. And she was respected.”

“She knew just about every fighter in this area,” Morehead said. “Between Ray and her, they basically started youth boxing in Northern Nevada and grew it into a powerhouse.”

Carlos Mendoza, now 32, was one of those young boxers.

Just about every day from 1990-1995 – and on and off in the years after that – Mendoza would come through the doors at the Boys & Girls Club and step into the gym. He would hit the bags, practice technique and of course do fitness work. But it wasn’t until he was older he realized he was learning more than simply how to fight.

“We were learning about life,” Mendoza said.

Now, as father to a 10-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy, he’s passing those lessons on.

“Ray taught us we have to work hard for what we want,” Mendoza said.

“Preparing for a fight is a lot like preparing for life. Ray and Thelma gave us that.”

A memorial is planned for Tuesday at the Boys & Girls Club. Details will follow.

– Click here to view video of a story about Thelma that ran on CBS News with Katie Couric.

Olympic role models share skills, spirit with Club kids

Olympic swimmers Cullen Jones, Jason Lezak, and Rowdy Gaines volunteered their time with Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows members recently, doing a swim clinic to work on basic skills, and also some fun and games.

Club kids had the opportunity to socialize with some great role models, learn a little swimming technique, but also to learn those valuable lessons about dedication and goal-setting, something the Club tries to reinforce on a daily basis.

Thanks to Jones, Lezak and Gaines for sharing a little bit of your Olympic spirit with our future leaders! (And possible future Olympians?)


Club summer camp offers great programming, great value, awesome experience

Don’t let the tempestuous weather of the last couple weeks fool you – summer is around the corner, and for many parents whose children go to traditional schools, that means finding a summer camp. The Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows may be the best option.

For Truckee Meadows youth, summer programming is being offered Aug. 27 at six sites for children 6 months -12 years old ($40 a week with membership), and three sites for teens (FREE with membership). The camp offers 11 hours of supervised programming (7 a.m.-6 p.m.), with breakfast and lunch included. Financial assistance is available.

Most of all, the camp offers a memorable experience with activities as diverse as photography, acting and writing, to bowling swimming and roller skating. Throughout the summer, additional field trips are available as an option (additional fees apply).

Make it a great summer at the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows. To register – and to schedule a required orientation session – call the Club at 775-331-5437.

Youth Camp Sites

  • Donald W. Reynolds Facility (youth and teen)
    2680 E. Ninth Street, Reno
  • Neil Road Youth Site
    3905 Neil Road, Reno
  • Rollan Melton Elementary School
    6575 Archimedes Lane, Reno
  • Joe Mitchell Center
    325 Patrician Drive, Lemmon Valley
  • E.L. Wiegand Center (0-6 years old)
    1270 Foster Drive, Reno
  • Grace Warner Elementary
    3075 Heights Drive, Reno

Teen Sites

  • Donald W. Reynolds Facility (youth and teen)
    2680 E. Ninth Street, Reno
  • The Club at the Larry D. Johnson Community Center
    1200 12th Street, Sparks
  • Sun Valley Teen Center
    115 W. 6th Ave., Sparks
  • The Club at Hug High School
    2880 Sutro Street, Reno